Mud Creek Photos

UPDATE – Thanks to Douglas Walling for his question about photos from up above. Last March I did an entire post on photos from up there. You can find it here: Mud Creek, March 2010

First, let me begin with the rain total for this last storm. I got a total of 1.25″ which brings the season total to 23.75 inches. Big Sur Valley got the same amount for the storm.

These photos tell the story of what is happening at Mud Creek. It is amazing to watch this much water just “leak” out of the side of the mountain. Remember, these photos were taken Saturday, BEFORE the storm, when we had been dry and sunny for almost the entire month of January. This is what happens to our road down here, and this is just one spot we are watching.

Mud Creek 1, 1/29/11

Mud Creek 2, 1/29/11

Mud Creek 3, 1/29/11

Mud Creek 4, 1/29/11

Mud Creek 5, 1/29/11

Late January Storm

10:30 am – up to an inch, now. How’s it doing where you are?

9:15 am – it is pouring!! I am having a mixture of rain, sleet, and small hail. Big Sur Valley got 3/4 of an inch, also, while Carmel reported in with 1/3rd of an inch.

8:30 am – update – just wind and a bit of drizzle at the moment, but I got 3/4 of an inch overnight. We’ll see what the day brings.

2:00 am – the storm woke me about half an hour ago. It seems it hit early and is dropping more rain than expected, too, based on the sound of it. I will let you know what I am getting up here when it gets light.

Also, I took some photos of Mud Creek yesterday before the rain started. There is a whole bunch of water coming out of the side of that mountain – and this, after a month of dry, warm weather. I will try to post a few of these later today.

But after this storm ends Sunday, at least a week of warmer, dryer weather is expected.

Rain Coming

6:30 pm – update – this is what my SLO forecaster has to say about this system: ” The cold front will pass our area between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. with rain. Rain will turn to scattered rain showers along with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon through Sunday evening.” Remember, this is for SLO, so the rain should pass through Big Sur several hours earlier, as it is coming down from the north.

3:00 pm – update – drizzle started down here on the South Coast shortly after 2 pm. Not yet a full blown storm, but I was on the coast, checking out Mud Creek, having lunch, and other things, when the drizzle started down there, and it continued all the way up the mountain. Much more consistent with January weather, cold, wet, and windy. This is the January in Big Sur that I have come to know these last 26 years. Sure liked the run of great weather we had though!

Looks like we will get the dust taken care of tonight and tomorrow. From NOAA:

North Coast Values are not South Coast Values

My mother was born in 1929 – the beginning of the Great Depression. I have the family stories from those times, and the years beyond. The “gist” of those stories is that families and friends pulled together, and pooled resources. Families moved in together. Generations moved in together. Parents, grandparents, children, cousins, aunts and uncles lived in the same house. They all contributed to the stew pot that all would eat from. We entered the same era a while back, but no one is talking about it. It is time to talk about it. It is time to see “family” for the support we can provide one another.

CPOA and PelicanNetwork say that “community” is dying or being squeezed out. Not true, says I. Our community on the South Coast continues. We are a multi-generational community, unlike the North Coast. We have children and grand-children who will take over the stewardship of our land. We may be surrounded by USFS, but most of us will not “sell out.” Our children and grandchildren will continue our traditions. Sometimes, we ARE the children or grandchildren of those who came before.

Primarily, the South Coast, which had traditionally been from Anderson Canyon south, has only asked to be left alone. But, of course, as population explodes, that cannot happen. Now, after 80 years, CPOA has suggested that the “South Coast” is only from Limekiln south. I am a life time member of CPOA, but I am in complete disagreement on this issue, and at this writing, so is everyone on the South Coast, who has been here for 20 years or more. New comers disagree, because they are new comers, and do not understand the history and purpose of who we are.

I urge CPOA, PelicanNetwork, and other organizations to rethink the patriarchial positions they are assuming for the coast, particularly, our neighborhood.

I am relatively certain that I will be completely “blackballed” by certain people and organizations in Big Sur. So be it. I disagree with some people whom I completely respect. But North Coast values are not South Coast Values.

Monterey County Frac’ing & the Salinas Aquifer

Below, I have reproduced an article about fracking in Monterey County in the current issue of the Oil & Gas Journal that a member of HOLD sent out. I also have a map of the Salinas Valley Aquifer that a concerned bigsurkate reader sent me. Should we be worried? Should all those who eat from the Salad Bowl of the World be worried? I think so.

Here is an article in the current issue of Gas & Oil Journal, which can be found online here: Oil & Gas Journal

“Jan 24, 2011

Alan Petzet
Chief Editor-Exploration

The under explored Miocene Monterey formation is easily the largest
shale oil play in the US with more than 3 billion bbl proved so far,
said Timothy Marquez, chairman and chief executive officer, Venoco
Inc., Denver.

Venoco doesn’t expect the Miocene to be as good onshore as it has been
offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel South Ellwood field, for
example, where estimated ultimate recoveries range as high as 12
million bbl/well and average 5 million bbl/well. About 11,000 wells
have tested the Monterey onshore in the last 50 years, Marquez said.

The undeserved reputation of California as a difficult place to do
business may have kept many exploration and production companies from
entering the state, but that appears to be changing, Marquez said.
Most drilling has been to shallower zones, more than 200,000 wells
have been drilled, and major oil companies control 78% of the
production in California, he added.

Characteristics of the naturally fractured Monterey formation compare
favorably with those of most other US shale plays, he noted. Even in
North Shafter field in the San Joaquin basin, where Monterey quality
isn’t as good, Venoco drew encouragement because numerous wells have
cumulative production of 400,000 bbl of oil 20 years after completion
with older technology.

Venoco drilled 11 Monterey wells last year. It plans to drill 22
development and 11 evaluation wells in 2011, focusing on the San
Joaquin and Santa Maria basins and the Salinas Valley, and 50 wells in

Venoco and Occidental Petroleum Corp. should receive final data in the
third quarter of 2011 from a 520,000-acre 3D seismic survey shot last
year in the San Joaquin basin, the state’s largest 3D shoot ever. The
data will help in planning horizontal wells, Marquez said.

The company has drilled its first two Monterey horizontal wells in the
Santa Maria basin and awaits four-stage fracs expected in a few weeks
to test that technology vs. acid treatments that have worked well in
the Monterey elsewhere. It is also drilling a horizontal Monterey well
in the Salinas Valley. Most of the company’s leases have 10-year
primary terms.

Marquez urged the industry to focus on EURs rather than initial
potential flow rates in reporting Monterey results.

Venoco, without an announcement, sold its small interest in Cat Canyon
field in the Santa Maria basin in the 2010 fourth quarter as being
fairly depleted in the Monterey, Marquez said.”

And here is the link for the aquifer map and discussion about the geological properties of the Salinas Valley: Salinas Valley Aquifer

Finally, here is the position of the BLM on the drilling on their land, courtesy of Steve Craig of the Ventana Trust:

“BLM appears not to be in the position to take responsibility for any
hydraulic fracking decsion-making at all. Their discretion is
superficial only, quite literally. The issue moves to the Division of
Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). DOGGR is a state agency
(website: We will see how the state and federal regs are interpreted. Fracking may in essence be unregulated as to water and air quality impacts if a
federal pre-emption of state rules is invoked by the drillers.

DOGGR only works a few days a week due to furlough requirements, soon to be increased, and I think we will find they cannot enforce Clean Water Act, Safe Water Drinking Act, and Clean Air Act due to
exemptions in the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton 2005 energy bill. I should have an answer on that issue within a week.
Steve [Craig, Ventana Trust]

From the BLM:


As noted earlier, I’m not the minerals specialist, but it is my job to help the public understand how oil and gas is regulated by BLM and the State of California.

Of course, the many layers of government can be confusing, but generally BLM is only responsible for the effects of energy development on the surface; whereas the State of California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil and Gas is responsible for regulating all the activities that take place underground (i.e. subsurface).

In other words, the California Division of Oil and Gas (CDOG) has strict regulations for oil and gas drilling in California (including the use of hydraulic fracturing technology) that are not within the jurisdiction of BLM, so we can only analyze the associated issues/concerns (i.e. water quality) based on information that’s available at the leasing stage.

Anyway, here’s a link to the CDOG website that describes rules and
regulations for oil and gas drilling in California (which happen to be much more strict than the federal standards!):

Department of Oil & Gas regulations


Sky Painter Murphy
BLM Hollister Field Office

And there you have it – or at least some of it. I will continue to keep all of us as informed and aware as I can, but contributions always appreciated. Don’t forget the meeting on Feb. 5th. I will post a reminder closer to the date.

Featured Artist

Occasionally, I feature a local artist. Any local Big Sur artist will be featured if the artist submits a jpg photo of the artwork. Today, I feature Barbara Sparhawk. This is Big Sur Sunset, Dunes:

Big Sur Sunset, Dunes by Barbara Sparhawk

You can see more of her work here: Hawk’s Perch or at her gallery of the same name at the Village Shops next to the River Inn.

Benefit for Rachel Fann

Big Sur River Inn
Wednesday, January 26
5:00 – 10:00 pm
Dinner Benefit for Rachel Fann
Live music with The Ashe Ensemble featuring special guest Vernon Bush
RSVP through River Inn at 667-2700

The proceeds from this event will go to support Rachel’s treatment and recovery from breast cancer.
A special thank you to the Big Sur River Inn and the Big Sur community for your generous support.

News from the Oil Fields

From HOLD: “Yesterday we had our first meeting in the Hames Vaelly with an ACOE colleague and consulting biologist for Central California who is assisting with evaluating what we can, given access restraints. Venoco will be installing a new frackingrig and well on this hill which is right at the intersection of San Marcos Road (G-18), Jolon Road and the Highway 101 intersection where the Hames Valley Watershed meets the Salinas. It appears this will be the “before” image. How this can be consistent with hillside development requirements in the general plan remains a true mystery. Given the location, we expect it to be even more visible than the others.

We will send the after picture once the rig is in place, about a week I think. The once pastoral view corridor of these vast remaindered grazing lands is rapidly changing– not too mention any less visible consequences beneath the surface.

Chevron is collecting water quality samples at their injection site downgradient from this and the other new fracking well. We will try to get some baseline data, pre-fracking, from this source. Chevron is a responsible and decent company and I suspect we will be able to gather the data needed everyone says is required to monitor fracking impacts on watersheds.

In line: one new proposed well on Jolon Road, one just heard by LUAC, 10 new shallow wells in the middle of the San Ardo Field (these are all on file with the County), BLM lease sale for fracking wells (at least 30 lease properties to be developed as fracking wells) and a new plant based on the Chevron Model of injection pulls and spreading into the Salinas River.

We are trying to define with certainty what the Bush-Cheney Energy Act exempted from review for fracking wells though we believe it to be at least the Clean Water Act, DOGGER review under this Act, Clean Air Act, and Safe Water Drinking Act. Will keep you posted on this matter. If this is the case, any new fracking well is unregulated for health and safety unless the County does the job or prohibits this type of well.

Thats the news from the oil front. ~C”